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Glossary of Dental Terms and Conditions

  • Abrasion

    A wearing away of tooth enamel (outer tooth surface) due to factors such as brushing too hard, teeth grinding, or chewing on hard objects, such as nails and pens/pencils.

  • Abscessed Tooth

    A condition that occurs when the nerve of a tooth becomes infected, causing swelling at the base of the tooth root and moderate to severe pain.

  • Allergies

    Allergies to medications and materials (i.e., latex) need to be disclosed on new patient paperwork to assist in the selection of proper patient anesthetics, antibiotics and pain relievers, if necessary.

  • Anesthesia

    Dental medications, applied topically or administered locally or through sedation, that eliminate pain and discomfort associated with some dental procedures.

  • Ankylosis

    A condition that occurs when a tooth fuses to the bone as it is developing or erupting, usually as a result of trauma or heredity.

  • Arch Expanders

    A device used to create proper alignment of the dental arches (curves) so that permanent teeth have room to erupt in their natural position.

  • Attrition

    The gradual loss of tooth enamel that occurs as a result of normal wear and from activities such as eating and talking.

  • Baby Bottle Syndrome

    Rapid decay that occurs in an infant’s or child’s primary teeth due to overexposure to liquids that contain sugar, including juices and milk. The condition typically affects the front upper teeth and occurs when children fall asleep while drinking from a bottle or breast feeding.

  • Bad Breath

    Bad breath (halitosis) is caused by bacteria on your teeth and gums. It may also signal gum disease or tooth decay so it is important that you schedule a dental visit if it persists.

  • Bleaching

    Tooth whitening that removes stains and discoloration to restore a natural-looking color.

  • Bleeding Gums

    Bleeding gums usually signal infection or the beginning stages of gum disease. Since healthy gums never bleed, this is one condition you need to address quickly through an examination and proper treatment in our office.

  • Bonding

    Bonding is a method used to correct chipped, stained or damaged teeth or to fill in gaps between teeth using a composite material that is applied to an existing tooth surface. Painless and non-invasive, this procedure is relatively simple and inexpensive.

  • Bridges

    Used to replace missing teeth, a bridge is anchored to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth and then cemented permanently into place.

  • Broken/Chipped Teeth

    Broken or chipped teeth may result from accidents, trauma, wear, or biting down on something hard. There are numerous ways to treat broken/chipped teeth and we recommend that you contact our office for an immediate evaluation and appropriate treatment.

  • Bruxism

    Also known as teeth grinding, bruxism wears away dental enamel and usually occurs when the child or adult is sleeping. Stress is cited as the most probable cause.

  • Caps

    Also known as crowns, they’re used to cover damaged or cracked teeth or in place of a filling for a large cavity. They also are placed on the teeth that are used to anchor a bridge.

  • Cavities

    Also known as “caries,” cavities occur as a result of tooth decay, caused when the bacteria in plaque mixes with sugar in food to produce acid that eats a hole in the tooth enamel.

  • Cleaning

    Tooth cleaning is part of a routine dental examination. Also known as prophylaxis, it removes plaque buildup on and between teeth and below the gum line to prevent tooth decay.

  • Contouring

    A painless procedure that involves re-shaping a tooth to remove ridges, shorten its length or improve its appearance in some way. Also known as shaping.

  • Crowns

    Also known as “caps,” crowns are used to cover damaged or cracked teeth or in place of a filling for a large cavity. They also are placed on teeth that are used to anchor a bridge.

  • Decay

    Decay is the eroding of tooth enamel that results when the bacteria in plaque mixes with sugar in food to produce acid that “eats” away at the enamel and forms a hole (cavity) in the tooth.

  • Dentures

    A means to replace a few missing teeth or a complete set of missing teeth with a functional, yet comfortable, removable appliance that has the appearance of natural teeth.

  • Discolored Tooth

    Tooth discoloration often results from the foods we eat, smoking, sugar-laden beverages (i.e., colas, juices, and coffee), aging and trauma, such as a blow to the mouth.

  • Dry Socket

    A dry socket occurs when the blood clot that forms after a dental extraction, usually in the case of back molars or wisdom teeth, is dislodged, leaving bone and nerves exposed to air, liquids and food. It can be extremely painful but is easily treated.

  • Erosion

    The wearing away of tooth enamel due to acid, usually citric acid, found in citrus juices, fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), soda and candy. Other beverages, such as coffee and tea, also contain corrosive acids. Rinsing your mouth after eating or drinking these types of foods and beverages helps to reduce this type of erosion.

  • Extraction

    The complete removal of a tooth, generally due to gum disease, advanced decay, a break near the gum line or impaction. After removal, some type of restoration (i.e., implant, bridge, denture) is required to keep other teeth near the extraction site from shifting.

  • Filling

    A composite (tooth-colored) or amalgam (silver) material that is placed in the space left in a tooth, as a result of decay, to strengthen the tooth to function normally.

  • Fluoride

    An effective cavity reducer found naturally in most city water supplies and added to toothpastes or topical applications to prevent cavities. Fluoride is especially important to children who may benefit from fluoride supplements or topical applications that strengthen their teeth as they are forming.

  • Frenectomy

    The surgical removal of all or part of the frenum, a piece of soft tissue that connects the lips to the gums and the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. If the frenum is not in the proper place, teeth placement or speech may be affected, necessitating the surgery to restore proper balance.

  • Full Mouth Reconstruction

    The use of bridges, veneers, and/or crowns to treat or replace most of the teeth to correct a patient’s bite (occlusion) and return facial features to a balanced state.

  • Gingivitis

    An infection of the gum tissue, caused by a build up of plaque and bacteria, that starts at the base of the teeth.

  • Grafts (Soft Tissue)

    A procedure designed to cover tooth roots that have become exposed due to gum disease, making the teeth appear longer and affecting a person’s smile.

  • Grinding

    Also known as bruxism, grinding is sliding the upper and lower teeth back and forth on top of each other, usually while sleeping. This condition generally is believed to be stress-related and it results in a gradual wearing away of tooth enamel.

  • Gum Contouring

    A procedure that removes excessive gum tissue to reveal more of the tooth crown. Improves the look of the teeth and eliminates a “gummy” smile.

  • Gum Disease

    An infection of the gum tissue caused by a build up of plaque and bacteria that starts at the base of the teeth. If left untreated, eventually causes loss of teeth as the infection spreads to the tissue and bone that holds the teeth in place.

  • Gum Pain

    May have many causes including brushing too hard, gum disease, tooth abscess, erupting or impacted tooth, cyst, oral cancer, etc.

  • Gum Treatment

    Involves the care of active gum disease, including removal of plaque from the deep pocket areas around the base of the teeth and under the gum line, to slow down or stop the progression of the disease.

  • Halitosis

    Bad breath, is caused by bacteria on your teeth and gums. It may also signal gum disease or tooth decay so it is important that you schedule a dental visit if it persists.

  • Headaches/Migraines

    Some headaches may be related to dental problems, including teeth grinding, an incorrect bite (malocclusion), or TMJ, a condition that affects the jaw joints.

  • Impacted Tooth

    A tooth that cannot fully erupt due to lack of space, misalignment that adversely affects the tooth’s positioning, or a condition in which another tooth has erupted over the affected tooth making it impossible for it to erupt. This condition usually occurs with 3rd molars or wisdom teeth. Impacted teeth require extraction or the nerve root will bond to or entwine with the bone or other tooth roots.

  • Implants

    Used to replace a missing teeth. An implant is surgically inserted into the gum. After the implant integrates with the bone, a crown is inserted on top of the implant to make the tooth functional again.

  • Invisalign®

    Invisible braces used to correct moderate teeth crowding conditions; used in place of traditional metal braces.

  • Jaw Joint Pain

    Also known as TMJ, this is a painful condition that makes it difficult to open the mouth wide, chew, yawn or talk. It may be accompanied by headaches and “popping” sounds when the mouth is opened or closed.

  • Malocclusion

    Also known as a “bad bite,” malocclusion is a condition that results from misaligned upper and lower teeth or jaws, missing teeth, grinding, or thumb/finger sucking.

  • Mouth Guard

    A device used to protect the teeth and jaw while playing any sport that carries increased risk for mouth/teeth trauma or concussions

  • Night Guard

    A custom-fitted tooth guard, worn at night, to prevent further damage to the teeth from grinding (bruxism), that typically takes place while sleeping.

  • Partial Dentures

    A removable bridge that replaces one or more teeth. It is anchored to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth (teeth) and is put in place to keep the other teeth from shifting and to improve appearance.

  • Periodontist

    A dentist who is specifically trained to treat diseases of the gums.

  • Pocket Depth Reduction

    A procedure used to reduce the depth of gum pockets around each tooth that have deepened as a result of bacteria and infection. Bacteria and infection are removed and the gums are reshaped, allowing them to return to normal size.

  • Prophylaxis

    Prophylaxis is another name for teeth cleaning. It involves removal of plaque from the teeth and gums and a thorough teeth cleaning and flossing.

  • Pulpectomy

    A procedure that removes infected pulp and tissue from a tooth, down through the bone and roots.

  • Pulpotomy

    A pediatric procedure, similar to adult root canal therapy, that is performed when dental decay in a primary (baby) tooth has extended down into the tooth root. It is performed to remove the infection in an effort to save the primary tooth until the adult tooth is ready to erupt.

  • Pyorrhea

    An advanced form of gum disease involving wide-spread infection that ultimately leads to loss of teeth.

  • Root Canal

    The removal of infection from the tissues and roots of a tooth, performed through a hole made in the top surface of the affected tooth. The application of antibiotic medicine, a filling and finally a cap on the infected tooth complete the procedure.

  • Root Planing

    The elimination of rough spots on a tooth root that are susceptible to the accumulation of plaque and bacteria.

  • Root Scaling

    The scraping of bacteria and plaque that has accumulated on the tooth above the gum line.

  • Sealants

    A safe, clear layer of protection that is added to the top of a child’s primary teeth or adult permanent teeth that are especially prone to infection (i.e., back molars).

  • Sedation Dentistry

    Used in place of traditional topical and local anesthetics to help a patient feel relaxed and comfortable during a dental treatment procedure. The patient is sedated either through oral medication or through medication administered through an IV line. When the procedure is over, the patient has little or no recollection of the visit. Now, you can actually snooze through painful/long procedures!

  • Sensitivity

    Sensitivity in teeth can be caused by any number of factors and should always be investigated further. Decay, a cracked or broken tooth, teeth that are worn from normal use or aging, and abscesses are several examples of conditions that cause sensitivity in teeth.

  • Shaping

    A painless procedure that involves re-shaping a tooth to remove ridges, shorten its length or improve its appearance in some way. Also known as contouring.

  • Soft Tissue Grafts

    A procedure designed to cover tooth roots that have become exposed due to gum disease, making the teeth appear longer and affecting a person’s smile.

  • Space Maintainer

    A device that is inserted into a child’s mouth after extraction of a primary tooth to reserve the space for the permanent tooth.

  • Sports Guard

    A mouth piece that fits over both upper and lower teeth to protect them from injury during contact sports play. Can be custom made for best fit and maximum protection.

  • TMJ

    Named for the temporomandibular joint it affects, TMJ is a painful condition that makes it difficult to open the mouth wide, chew, yawn or talk. It may be accompanied by headaches and “popping” sounds when the mouth is opened or closed.

  • Tongue Thrusting

    A habit of placing the tongue against the front teeth, instead of the roof of the mouth, when swallowing. Common in children, this habit needs to be addressed to prevent protrusion of the front teeth, the development of speech abnormalities or the future need for braces.

  • Tooth Discoloration

    Discoloration of the teeth results from a number of causes, including coffee/tea drinking, smoking, use of certain antibiotics, aging, trauma and decay. There are a number of procedures available that reduce or eliminate discoloration, including whitening, veneers, crowns and bonding.

  • Toothache

    Tooth pain can be caused by a number of factors and should always be investigated further. Decay, a cracked or broken tooth, teeth that are worn from normal use or aging, and abscesses are a few conditions that cause tooth pain.

  • Veneers

    A thin layer of porcelain material that is bonded to the front surfaces of teeth to whiten them, fill in gaps between teeth, and repair minor chips and cracks to recreate your winning smile!

  • Whitening

    A mild bleaching process that restores discolored teeth to their healthy, natural color. Whitening can be accomplished through several in office or at home procedures.

  • Wisdom Teeth

    Also known as 3rd permanent molars, wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth to erupt, usually between the ages of 16 to 20 years. Since there is generally little space left for these teeth, many times they become impacted and require surgical removal.

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